Meet Sadie of Fibre Athletics
Inspired to create an American-Made collection of athletic wear from 100% organic cotton and recycled fabrics, Chicago-based designer Sadie Monroe and her partner launched Fibre Athletics. We recently had a chance to catch up Sadie about what inspires her thoughtfully created brand of American-Made athletic wear and her insights on starting an ethical business within the fashion industry.
As an avid adventurer who craves good design and a conscious lifestyle, I’m so impressed by your launch of an organic, recycled, American-made line of athletic clothing. Tell me, what was the inspiration behind Fibre Athletics?
Fibre Athletics was launched by my business partner Steve Sullivan and I. He comes from a strong non-proﬁt background and wanted to create meaningful product that supported an active lifestyle and generated positivity. When we met, he spoke to me about his experiences and ideas. We immediately connected as we both vigorously seek real, authentic endeavors and adventures. I’ve worked in several positions within the fashion industry to this point. What connected us to pursue this together was the motivation to create product and a company that wasn’t seen just as responsible or good, but to exist as proof that a conscious company can create desirable, cutting-edge, well-made products aggressively competing with existing brands. In its most simple form, we wanted to create an appealing product and company that didn’t neglect the most important parts that enable its existence: people and the earth.
The fashion industry is ripe with opportunity to improve the ethics and responsibility of production. With all of the various niches you could have chosen - from accessories to luxury lines to basics - why did you choose athletic clothing to make your mark?
We believe part of sustainability is being minimal in your consumption, aka choosing wisely. We create extremely versatile, comfortable, and durable pieces that align with many people’s real lifestyles. People are going 90 miles a minute, traveling everywhere, and achieving so much every single day. We want them to be able to go throughout the day or their travels without changing all the time or packing mounds of stuff. I designed pieces that cater to this concept. As we consciously build the collection this will be my priority. In my eyes, these products are staples. I have to be strategic with my personal money. I’ll spend the money on something if I know it will provide for me at my morning workout, commuting, out with friends, traveling, camping, working from a coffee shop, casual ofﬁce days, etc. These pieces perform well when put into action and provide comfortable style when worn everyday.
The market today is ﬂooded with labels and certiﬁcations - from organic to fair trade to local. Why did you prioritize organic fabric over any of the other materials available to you?
Organic production is largely important to us because chemicals are not used in its creation, genetically modiﬁed organisms are prohibited, and there is no risk of pesticide runoff into nearby streams, rivers, or public water supply. It keeps water clean and air fresh. Furthermore, if dyed in a safe, low-impact manner, the ﬁnished fabric does not contain harmful or toxic dyes that impact the body’s basic systems. It doesn’t hurt the earth and it doesn’t hurt you.
Launching any business is a huge undertaking; building a sustainable and ethical business is even harder. We know that there is often more to do than any one person is qualiﬁed for and it really does take a village. What challenges have you faced and what partnerships have you leaned on to build this brand?
You’re not kidding. Although I have a background in several facets of the industry, this was my ﬁrst swing at large scale sourcing and production. Taking on this challenge seeking very niche materials is tough and time intensive. I’m constantly playing tetris to make everything work and I’m not allowed to quit.
As a startup you don’t have a ton of cash ﬂow, you’re starting from scratch, and learning as you go. So...it’s a lot to manage. Finding fabrics at a cost you can afford while reaching minimum orders with manufacturers is one thing. Finding fabrics that are durable, sustainable, and ethically made pushes you into a whole new level. On top of this, fabrics used in athletic apparel are very progressive and often infused with state-of-the-art technology. Finding eco-friendly, ethically made materials that perform and compete with these fabrics takes some intensive research and navigation.
I’m constantly learning. I’m researching production practices, fabric processes and technology infusions just trying to make sense of it all. I can deﬁnitely feel lost or want to give up. But as we gain traction and have successfully created a couple of styles from quality fabrics, my hope is to ﬁnd US manufacturers interested in working with us at a smaller scale as we grow so we can collaboratively develop fabrics in the US. Although it will take a ton of time, effort, and research to produce in this way, I am eager to begin developing custom fabrics here and push for new possibilities. As I learn more each day, I want to produce the best - and that takes time.
Fibre designs, manufactures, and sells versatile gear that can go anywhere anytime. Your products are ethically-sourced, organic, and recycled. What impact can your customers expect to have when they purchase gear from Fibre?
On top of the fact some of their money is put towards environmental restoration and poverty alleviation programs, buyers are enabling positive creation. As humans, we are constantly developing our environment and creating. Fibre Athletics aims to create with a conscience. By purchasing our gear, people are voting with their dollars for transparent production, ethical workplaces, sustainable practices, and overall awareness. The more people purchase this way, the more they provide happier, healthier lives for individuals all over the world and for generations to come.
I can’t help but notice that you’re expanding your brand by offering community adventures. Tell us more. How did you move from versatile gear to invigorating experiences?
This is actually something we’ve been inspired by from the start. There’s a story behind everything and everyone; people want to live and tell them. We aim to provide the opportunity for people to live the ones they dream about - living authentically, discovering new territory, pushing past limits, and exploring for more. People are our inspiration. We don’t want to just sell product, we want to build a platform that uplifts people and brings them together so we all can embody the lifestyle we advocate.
What’s next on your list for Fibre? Where do you want to go from here?
We will add essential pieces to the line as we see fit. We also plan to continue our social impact involvement. And we’re definitely in the collaborative mindset as we grow. We’ve got some ideas brewing and aim to engage with various medium artists, culturally involved athletes, influencers, and communities as we build upwards, living what we advocate.
Kassia Binkowski is a Contributing Editor at The Good Trade and the Founder of One Thousand Design. She grew up in Madison, WI and traveled her way around the world to Boulder, CO which she now calls home. Nestled against the Rocky Mountains, Kassia supports innovative organizations from Colorado to Kathmandu tell their stories of social change through writing, photography, and design. Kassia is an eternal optimist and forever a backroad wanderer.